How many times can one company call a candidate for an interview before suspicions of a runaround surface?
I have interviewed, in person, with an IT consulting company four
times in the last nine months. I have spoken with the HR manager several
times on the phone; he has kept in touch via e-mail with me, wanting to
know my availability. I have been considered for two network engineer
positions and have been the company’s “second choice” twice. I was recently
called for another onsite interview. I have three and a half years of
experience in Microsoft network administration and design, an MCSE in
NT and 2000, a CCNA and a degree in engineering.
- By Greg Neilson
- April 01, 2002
Is this company really interested, or is it just jerking me around?
—Anonymous in the Midwest
has given you some excellent things to think about. I admit that I was
once in a similar position myself. I went for an interview, missed out
on a role, yet was called back later for another interview. I was reluctant
to waste more time, but had been assured that “there’s definitely a role
here.” And you know what happened next—after that interview, I still didn’t
get an offer!
I don’t think this company is deliberately trying to waste your time.
Even if you wanted to believe in conspiracy theories about this, let’s
face it: No employer wants to waste any of its valuable time unless it’s
dealing with credible employment candidates.
In my case, I believe that the company wanted to hire me for the skills
I would have added, but it wasn’t sure I’d be a good fit for the profile
of the firm. It was a small consulting start-up that would have had a
relatively high proportion of my income dependent upon my billable hours.
In addition, a great deal of travel would have been required. At that
time, we’d just started a family; my wife had left work (making me, for
the first time, the sole source of income for the family); and I wasn’t
interested in spending any significant time away from my kids. So I think
the company had the sense to realize that, in the long-term, this arrangement
wasn’t going to work out (or at least that’s what I told myself at the
time). Either way, I think there was a gut determination that—as much
as the company wanted this to work out—it had some reservations about
hiring me and, sensibly, didn’t proceed further.
As Steve suggests, it may be helpful to find out what, if any, reservations
the company may have about you. It may be the case of having too many
good candidates and not enough roles; or perhaps there’s some small doubt
in the back of its mind. Having said that, it would probably be unlikely
to get much useful feedback this way, but you can only ask—it seems you
have received more feedback than I would have normally expected. You might
want to think back on your interviews at this company and consider some
of the concerns that may have, explicitly or implicitly, been mentioned.
Keep this information in the back of your mind the next time you sit for
a job interview.
Most important, I urge you to think carefully about how much you really
want to work for this company. From the information you’ve provided, it
seems unlikely they’re going to hire you. It already knows a great deal
about your skills, experiences and career triumphs. It appears more likely
that any further interviews will dig out more reasons not to hire you,
rather than the other way around. If this is truly one of the great companies,
it’s probably worth being a little patient and going along with this convoluted
process just in case it works out in your favor and you get hired. This
doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep exploring other options, nor does it mean
you should allow yourself to be humiliated in the process. However, those
few really great employers out there are probably worth some additional
effort on your part. On the other hand, if this is just another company
offering just another job, life is too short to put up with this. Move
on and forget ’em.
Greg Neilson, MCSE+Internet, MCNE, PCLP, is a Contributing Editor for MCP Magazine and a Professional Development Manager for a large IT services firm in Australia. He’s the author of Lotus Domino Administration in a Nutshell (O’Reilly and Associates, ISBN 1565927176).